WHO needs Ugly Sisters when you have Robin Belfield and Simon Slater? With only a teeny bit of audience participation and no innuendo whatsoever, panto this isn’t: but it’s charming, witty, and clever, and a lovely start to the festive season.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, adapted by Robin Belfield and Simon Slater, is at the Watermill in Newbury until January 3.

Neil Irish’s set continues the Watermill tradition of using every available square inch in creating a magical land. Thanks to some equally clever lighting, Alice’s journey is a bonkers beanfeast, as mad as the tale’s Hatter.

All the characters are played by just six actors, with some impressively-speedy costume changes. Alice is pretty much on-stage the whole time, and Josie Dunn as Alice does well with a character who can sometimes seem a bit prissy. She falls down the rabbit hole, in a clever kaleidoscopic scene, and embarks on her weird and wonderful adventures.

The single Dodo of the original story has increased to four and, after singing their excellent Caucus Race song, they’re used throughout to set scenes while all playing kazoos. Of course. They’re great characters, and add an extra layer of quirkiness to a deeply quirky story.

Alice’s growing and shrinking is episodes are wittily done, with the set playing a huge part as it also grows and shrinks. The caterpillar (a very cool Alex Tomkins), Mad Hatter (Oliver Izod, also a purple Cheshire Cat who speaks with a Romanian accent, naturally), sweet Dormouse (Ed Thorpe), the Duchess (Polly Highton in a great hat) – all have pass through her story with their own peculiar ideas on how Alice can get home.

It’s probably a bit sophisticated for the ‘Age 4’ indication – there was a certain amount of restlessness in the audience during a couple of longer scenes – but this is a top quality, delightful show, lovely for children and adults alike.